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Cool As Ice

Cool As IceWhile others puzzled over warm drinks, a Tufts graduate saw potential -- in the untapped market for ice in Germany.Maintal, Germany.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.04.03] When Matthew Meredith threw a barbeque to celebrate a job offer in Frankfurt in March 2002, he spent two days searching for ice for the party. When he couldn't find any the 1997 Tufts graduate decided it was time to introduce ice as a new product in Germany. A little more than a year later, Meredith has pioneered the market for ice-cubes in the country -- earning praise as an innovative businessman and cranking out thousands of bags of ice every day.

"These days, with record temperatures scorching most of Europe, the coolest guy in Germany is a 28-year-old American wearing a fleece jacket, a white hairnet and red rubber gloves," reported The Wall Street Journal. "For the past few weeks, Matthew Meredith has been spending up to 12 hours a day bagging what has suddenly become a very hot commodity here: ice."

With no suppliers of bagged ice in Germany, the market for ice in the county "was an obvious business opportunity," Meredith told the Journal. "The market was wide open."

Breaking into the ice market was a difficult challenge for Meredith and his partner Turid Nagel-Casebolt., who were initially denied credit by German banks.

"We were two young 28-year-old entrepreneurs starting a business with a totally new product in a new area in the middle of a horrible recession," Meredith told Germany's FAZ Weekly.

But the Tufts graduate chose to pursue the business despite the initial startup costs. As he told the Journal, "ice is a proven business model."

Meredith eventually purchased an ice maker from a company in Louisville, Kentucky, and set up a factory in a leased building formerly used to process cheese. The Tufts graduate named his company 'Ice Age Ice.'

An entirely new product for Germans, who traditionally drink their beverages warm, the ice was originally a hard sell for both consumers and retailers.

"Early customers didn't quite understand how to use the product," reported the Journal. "One called asking how long the ice would last. Wouldn't it melt in the car on the way home?"

To help introduce the product to consumers, Ice Age Ice began adding labels on their bags stating that the ice was clean and edible - as well as instructions on how to bang the ice against a hard surface if a chunk melts together.

Customers are beginning to catch on, partially due to the recent European heat wave. The record temperatures in the region this summer have given Germans new reason to look toward the American way of cooling beverages.

"With this weather, it's gone crazy," the Tufts graduate told the Journal. "I get up every two hours and start bagging."

Meredith, who now cranks out over 2,000 bags of ice a day sold by 36 retailers, told the Journal, "we run the machine all night long."

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